23 March 2011

White Bread

I've toyed around with the idea of homemade bread several times.  I love baking, especially from scratch, but bread is another creature all together.  What with the kneading and the rising, there are so just too many ways I could mess up.  Plus its such a lengthy process!  I'm not home long enough to mix dough, knead, let rise a few hours, knead some more, shape the bread, let rise again, bake, cool, blah, blah, blah...

Enter the recipe that inspired this post!  All this headache with trying to bake homemade bread, and I still try every once in a while.  But just last week, there was a batter-based bread on smitten kitchen.  There is still a bit of waiting involved, but no kneading and very little chance of overworking the flour.  This recipe was for sally lunn bread, which had a much debated history.  From what I've been able to figure out, this bread is named for either a French Protestant cake called "soleil lune" or a type of bun made by a baker in England.  Plus, the bread on her site included a fantastic-looking honey butter spread.  How could I resist honey butter spread?

Another benefit of homemade bread?  That would be eating bread hot out of the oven.  I can't think of many things I would be better!  For this batch, I chose to make a mostly savory loaf, because I'll need some plain bread for dinner later this week.  But next time I make it, I'm gonna follow the lead of one of the smitten kitchen commenters who added butter and cinnamon sugar to the batter just before baking the bread.  The yeasty quality of this bread reminded me of the sourdough cinnamon rolls I love so much, so I think cinnamon would be a great addition.

And can we talk about honey butter spread?  I've recently been turned on to brown butter.  This is when you heat the butter on the stove past the melting point until the milk solids in the butter turn golden brown.  It gives the butter a nutty quality, which I really like.  In this case, the brown butter was whipped with softened butter and honey to make a soft spread.  I wanted to dip a spoon right in the bowl as soon as this came together, but I resisted and waited for the bread to come out of the oven.  I added quite a bit more honey to mine than the original recipe called for.  I thought about adding even more honey to the recipe I listed here, but I thought that might overpower the nuttiness of the brown butter, and I like the spread as I made it.

I have to admit, this morning for breakfast I had a slice of this bread with honey butter spread and a little cinnamon sugar for good measure.  Then I had another piece a couple of hours later for a snack.  I've got to get this bread out of my house!

Sally Lunn Bread
barely adapted from smitten kitchen (by barely adapted, I mean I added a little more yeast than the original recipe called for, based on some comments on the original recipe)
2 c flour
2 T sugar
1 t salt
1 packet yeast
3/4 c milk
4 T butter
1 egg + 1 egg yolk

Heat the butter and milk over medium low heat until warm.  In a large bowl, stir together 3/4 cup flour, sugar, salt, and yeast.  Add the milk to the flour and stir with a mixer for 2 minutes or with a wooden spoon for 3 minutes.  Add the egg and 1/2 cup flour and beat with a mixer for 2 minutes or by hand for 3 minutes.  Add the rest of the flour and stir until smooth.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.  Butter and flour a loaf pan.  Pour the batter into the loaf pan and cover with buttered plastic wrap.  Let rise 15 minutes.  Remove plastic, heat oven to 375-degrees, and let rise another 15 minutes.  Bake the loaf for 30-40 minutes, but keep and eye on it starting around 20 minutes.  Mine only baked for 25 minutes.  Remove when a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, or the loaf makes a hollow sound when you tap on the top.

Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes.  Remove from pan and let cool completely before slicing.  Or slice off a little piece while its still warm :)

Honey Butter Spread
adapted from smitten kitchen
1 stick butter, divided
3 T honey
pinch salt

Place half the butter in a small sauce pan over low heat on the stove.  Let the butter melt, then it will froth up.  Once it froths up, stir it constantly until you see the milk solids on the bottom of the pot start to brown.  All the instructions I've read for making brown butter say the solids will brown after the froth dissipates, but I've never had this happen.  So just stir the butter so you can see through the froth to the solids on the bottom of the pot and take it off the heat when they start to brown.

Let the butter cool.  You want it to be room temperature, but not start to solidity.  Whip the remaining room temperature butter with an electric mixer until fluffy.  Slowly add the brown butter and the honey, and mix well.

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